The sounds of celebration filled the Majestic Ballroom at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel on December 7, when nearly 1,200 members of the Washington University community gathered to commemorate the success of Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University and honor Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and his wife, Risa Zwerling Wrighton, MBA ’89.
The dinner gala featured special tributes, musical performances, and dancing. Guests included a number of the 4,300 volunteers and nearly 160,000 donors who helped make Leading Together the most successful fundraising campaign in university history. The campaign, which concluded on June 30, shattered its initial goal of $2.2 billion by securing $3.378 billion in gifts and commitments.
“We came together with a purpose and a plan, and in the end, we made something incredible happen,” Life Trustee Andrew Taylor, executive chairman of St. Louis-based Enterprise Holdings and chair of the public phase of the campaign, told the crowd. “The remarkable generosity of those in this room and others around the world has created opportunities for a richer academic life for our students, advanced path-breaking discoveries, provided lifesaving medical care, and secured a brighter future for our world and our university.”
“ When Chancellor Wrighton arrived in 1995, he pledged to ‘build a better future for those who follow us.’ Thanks to his exceptional and inspiring leadership, Washington University has done just that for our students and faculty, and those they serve.” – Life Trustee Craig Schnuck, chair of the Board of Trustees
Chancellor Wrighton noted that the impact of Leading Together is being felt across Washington University, and he thanked those who contributed to advancing the campaign’s overarching goal of enhancing the university’s leadership today to benefit America and the world tomorrow.
“I would like to express my deepest gratitude for your investment in our mission of education, research, service, and clinical care,” Wrighton said. “And thank you for what you will continue to do for this great university as we move forward into its next era of excellence and achievement.”
Following performances by the Washington University Choirs and the Wind Ensemble, which played an original fanfare composed for the gala by assistant professor of music Christopher Stark, the program’s focus shifted to recognizing the Wrightons’ exceptional contributions to the university. The chancellor will conclude his term May 31, when he will be succeeded by Chancellor-elect Andrew D. Martin, PhD ’98.
“When Chancellor Wrighton arrived in 1995, he pledged to ‘build a better future for those who follow us,’” Life Trustee Craig Schnuck, chair of the Board of Trustees, told the audience. “Thanks to his exceptional and inspiring leadership, Washington University has done just that for our students and faculty, and those they serve.”
Mr. Schnuck also lauded Ms. Zwerling Wrighton for her “deep commitment to serving others and gift for connecting people,” noting her efforts to create programs that enrich the lives of students and improve the St. Louis region.
Surprising the Wrightons, Mr. Schnuck announced several initiatives to recognize their accomplishments and selfless service, including the establishment of the Wrighton Tribute Fund to support university priorities. Life Trustee John F. McDonnell, DSc ’06, MBA ’14, and Mr. Taylor then took the stage to reveal that they had designated gifts for named fellowships in the McDonnell International Scholars Academy and named scholarships in the Enterprise Holdings Scholars Program, respectively, in honor of the Wrightons.
Mr. Schnuck also announced the naming of several Danforth Campus spaces in homage to the Wrightons. The Department of Chemistry’s Laboratory Science Building will be renamed Mark S. Wrighton Hall in appreciation of the chancellor, an accomplished chemist. And College Hall in the heart of the South 40 residential community will be rechristened Risa Zwerling Wrighton Hall. In addition, Wrighton Way, a new walkway being constructed on the east end of campus, will connect Forsyth Boulevard to a landscaped court adjacent to the Gary M. Sumers Welcome Center.
The program ended with another surprise as the Wrightons stood on the stage with a prop TNT plunger. After a countdown, the two pushed the plunger, confetti cannons fired, and the funk band Kool & the Gang appeared at the back of the ballroom to perform their hits, including the chart-topping song “Celebration.”